What They Don’t tell You at Local Farmers’ Markets

Could you be Fooled at Local Farmers’ Markets?


Fooled by Farmers Markets or Genuinely Local?My regular readers know that I’m a huge fan of buying locally-grown produce.  Next to growing your own, it’s the most eco friendly way to eat.  But could we be fooled at local farmers’ markets and roadside stalls?

Today’s Guest Post is written by farmer John Goforth – he has some great advice to share!


Sometimes on a cold winter’s night, I’ll be counting the weeks until the first home grown summer tomatoes will be ripe enough to eat.

With all those months of anticipation, it doesn’t surprise me that some vendors can get away with what I consider a sin: Passing trucked-in produce off as locally grown.

Year after year, you see folks who have a genuine interest in buying locally-grown produce purchasing from middleman vendors with produce that has been trucked-in from hundreds of miles away.

To me, this is irony at its finest: People go to local farmers’ markets to escape the trucked-in goods and end up buying trucked-in goods at their local farmers’ market.

You have to be very careful in order to avoid it, but realistically, it ends up happening to most of us. It’s even happened to me!

One year, when we lost our entire crop of plums to brown rot, I stopped at a roadside stand to buy a peck of plums.  A father and son duo was running the stand. There were a few bushels of fruit on the table beside a field of corn. This put me at ease.

“Did you grow these yourself?”

“Yes sir!” the 14 year old boy said.

…and I fully believed him.   Until 30 minutes later when I ended up chewing on a “Product of California” sticker. (This was a good indication that it wasn’t local since I live about 2,500 miles from California.)

“%$@# penhooker!” I said  after spitting out bits of plastic sticker and mediocre plum. I really felt suckered. I really was suckered! (For those of you unfamiliar with the term penhooker, that’s how agricultural producers refer to middlemen pejoratively.)

Irony at its finest: People go to local farmers’ markets to escape the trucked-in goods and end up buying trucked-in goods at their local farmers’ market

It’s always a good idea to ask where the produce came from.  If you get the following response, be sceptical!

“Where were these tomatoes grown?”

“Oh I picked those up in ***-ville.”

“How about these onions?”

“I got those over in ***-ville, too”

99% of the time I’ve overheard this conversation the %$@# penhooker in question was gently trying to persuade his patron that the produce was grown locally just a few miles away. The reality of the story was that the penhooker picked up his goods at a produce wholesaler located in ***-ville who brought them in on a truck from Timbuktu and Kalamazoo.

You would not believe how many times I’ve heard this pitch or how many times I’ve seen it work.

Next:  John’s 5 Tips for Farmers Markets – what you need to know!

(Note from Clare: Yes, I have been fooled at local farmers’ markets and roadside stalls too.  But not any more!)

  • […] You may need to order an organic turkey in advance – they are in demand!  On the right of this page you’ll see a link to Local Harvest – just type in your Zip Code to find a Farmers’ Market close to you.   (See 5 Tips to get the Best from Farmers’ Markets). […]

  • Covert Hypnosis Online says:

    Thanks for the information, very enlightening.
    Be Well.

  • Kettlebells and Functional Movement says:

    I will definitely ask where the produce was grown. I won’t assume that the vendor actually grew it.

  • […] post – a Guest Blog written by John Goforth  – we read some real-life examples of people being fooled at farmers markets.  Sadly, it happens.  If you haven’t already, please read the first article so that you’ll […]

  • Annie @ Care for the Caregiver says:

    Hi Clare,
    Trust, when you see it growing in your neighbours property, it’s easy to trust, because you can see it.
    I have seen road stalls with fruits & vegies brought from an hours drive away. At the city markets… very interesting post!
    Looking forward to tomorrow!

  • Mil says:

    At my market, the farmers have to hang a sheet listing the type to produce they grow, where the farm is located, what chems (if any) are used, etc

    The organizer of this Farmers’ Market is very picky about the vendors they let in, for which I’m glad.

    • Clare Delaney says:

      Mil, that is SO excellent! The organizer obviously really cares (and knows people are being fooled elsewhere). Thanks for letting us know!

    • John Goforth says:


      It’s always good to know where things came from and I think it’s commendable of your market manager to do that.

      The only bad thing I’ll mention is that sometimes trucked in produce can be a good “draw” to the market. At our market, when SC cantaloupes are in season a lot of people come to buy SC cantaloupes. That’s beneficial to me when those same folks buy the few things I have to offer at the time.

      At other times, it feels like it does more harm than good if buying local is your aim.

      I think the method you mention is probably the best middle ground.


  • Lyle R. Johnson: The Sales Wizard & Mentor says:

    Ho, ho , ho … years ago I had an office near the garmet district in NYC … the local joke was “turn on the green light, Harry, the customer wants a green suit”. Sounds like, “you want local?, I give you local.”

    Lyle R. Johnson – aka The Sales Wizard

  • Suzanne Laramore says:

    I guess I’m fortunate…our local grocer carries locally grown produce alongside the trucked in stuff. And most of the local vegetable stands have been pretty honest with me when they have brought stuff in from other places. But I can see where vendors would take advantage of people…especially tourists.

    • John Goforth says:


      You’re very fortunate to have a small grocer where you live. All of the independent grocers in a 15 mile radius from where I live have gone out of business. The last one that I know we had was Dover’s…which closed about 9 years ago.

      It’s a crying shame really.

  • Covert Hypnosis: 3 Confidence Building Techniques says:

    Clare, great insights!
    I have been fooled many times (obviously). Can’t wait to find out how to be more knowledgeable about the
    “sincerity” of the flea market vendors.

  • Will says:

    Let the buyer beware!!!

  • Dan says:

    Michael could write a book about a penhook stalker… ;>)

  • Sonya Lenzo says:

    Yes, I have worked at a farmers market and you are correct…the best way to be sure is to get to know your vendors !
    Sunny Carlson

  • Michael D Walker says:

    I’ve wondered about this before and was wondering how you’d be able to verify the produce was grown locally without following each of the vendors back to their homes.


    • Clare Delaney says:

      LOL Michael – I now have a delightful image of customers stealthily following vendors ……and what happens afterwards! 🙂